It’s that time of year again – university offers are pouring in and the UCAS deadline for choosing which offers to accept and which to reject is fast approaching. The system can be confusing, so we have put together a simple guide to help you work out how to deal with your offers.

Conditional and Unconditional Offers

This can sound confusing but it is actually pretty simple. A conditional offer is one where the offer depends on you achieving a specific set of A-level grades. So you may be offered a place on the condition that you achieve AAB for example.

Make sure you know what the grade requirements are for each of your conditional offers as this will help you sort through them. Also be aware that some conditional offers require that one of the grades be achieved in a specific subject.

An unconditional offer is an offer that is definite and does not depend on what A-level grades you achieve.

Firm Acceptance and Insurance Acceptance

If you have received offers from more than one university then you will soon be asked to choose one firm offer and one insurance offer. At this stage you will be declining all the other offers you have received so it is important to get it right.

Your firm offer should be the university you most want to go to – your first choice. If this university has offered you an unconditional offer then accepting this as your firm acceptance means that you are definitely going to do that course and there is no need to choose an insurance offer: congratulations!

If you have chosen a conditional offer for your first choice then you need to choose your insurance offer carefully. The point of an insurance offer is to have something to fall back on if you don’t manage to get the grades to satisfy the conditions of your first choice university.

TOP TIP: It doesn’t make sense to choose an insurance offer which requires higher grades than your firm offer – if you do not achieve the grades for your first choice you are extremely unlikely to be accepted by another university that asks for higher grades.

Choosing an insurance offer

The biggest dilemma faced by most students is what to choose for their insurance offer. If your first choice university has asked for high grades and you are worried you may not achieve them then it can be difficult to decide whether to choose a very low offer for your insurance to guarantee having a place somewhere, or whether to choose a slightly lower offer at a better university but risk missing both places if your grades are too low.

The best advice here is to be realistic. Speak to your teachers and tutors and ask them to give you the closest possible real prediction of the grades you are likely to achieve. Look at your coursework marks and any module results you have already received and work out what marks you will need to achieve in your final modules to get the results you need. It is great to aim high, especially with your firm offer, but it is advisable for your insurance offer to be one or two grades lower to give yourself the best possible backup in case thing go wrong.

Remember to take into account whether your offer specifies that you must achieve certain grades in certain subjects. You can speak to the teachers of these subjects individually.

TOP TIP: If you have an unconditional offer but it is not at your top choice university, a very safe decision would be to accept your favourite university as your firm choice but to use the unconditional offer for your insurance to be guaranteed a place whatever happens.

The best possible way to make these tricky choices is to talk them through fully with parents and teachers who can help you realistically predict your likely grades and choose the best possible offers and universities for you.

Having trouble choosing between universities? Check out next week’s blog, which will be packed with tips and hints on how to decide!